Career profile: Christopher Cleveland, MIEMA, CEnv, CMIOSH

30th March 2023


Head of sustainability at Freightliner Group

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

Working in sustainability enables me to use my strengths and capabilities. It is also a great sector in which to lead and coach future professionals – the inspiration I get from this part of the job is why I love what I do.

What was your first job in this field?

My first true environmental role was as environmental operations manager with National Grid. I loved it. It exposed me to nearly every environmental topic going, and showed me how good compliance and environmental management can build the cornerstones for sustainability.

How did you get your first role?

I joined a joint venture at BBC Workplace through a graduate scheme to learn health and safety.

What does your current role involve?

It involves setting and overseeing our environmental, social and governance (ESG) plan for the near term and structuring the business for the longer term. I lead on seeking opportunities for innovation to reduce our environmental impact, empowering and enabling change and having a positive impact to meet our business and customer needs. I lead our UK and European businesses and collaborate with our US business on ESG.

How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?

It has become less reliant on technical knowledge and more on leadership. It is now one that inspires, has curiosity and coaches to support the development and experience of the team I lead.

What’s the best part of your work?

Leading positive change. Seeing people grow in their roles. Making a difference.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

The desire for change brings lots of work – but secretly I love it too.

What was the last development activity you did?

I recently read Corporate Rebels: Make Work More Fun by Joost Minnaar and Pim de Morree. It’s a fantastic read and I highly recommend it.

What did you bring back to your job?

The key takeaway from the book was the importance of purpose and values to motivate us as humans. It made me reflect on how leaders create the right working environment for teams to be the best versions of themselves.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job?

Listening, empathy, influencing and courage.

Where do you see the profession going?

The technical knowledge will only take the profession so far; the skills of being influencers, enablers, leaders of change is where I see our profession going.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

In a role that continues to motivate me. I would love to be leading the business change that Minnaar and de Morree wrote about in their book.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Build relationships across all parts of your business; learn what truly happens and how your skills and knowledge can make a difference.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?

As a tool to reflect on my continuing professional development; what I need to focus on and how I can achieve it. It’s a great tool to help my team develop too.

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Curious, forward-thinking and determined.

What motivates you?

The desire for true change, making that difference, leaving a positive legacy and looking back on my career with pride.

What would be your personal motto?

Be the best version of myself to make a difference every day.

Greatest risk you have ever taken?

Being a dad to a six, four and two-year-old.

If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?

Karl Marx – to understand how his thoughts have evolved.


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